Get away from the crowd up on the roof

No garden, no problem!
No garden, no problem!

People I meet socially sometimes apologise as they confess to little or no interest in gardening.

My response is light-hearted and instant – “that does not make you a bad person!”

Autumn vegetable garden.

Autumn vegetable garden.

The fact is, nurturing plants can be very therapeutic when practised at any level and you don’t need broad acres to feel the benefit.

Visit any town or city in the world and look skyward at tiny balconies or window boxes bristling with colour.

Watering, dead-heading and feeding those precious plants must give a tremendous buzz, especially when neighbours weigh in with positive comments.

I’ve experienced this so often while Northumbria in Bloom judging, when a street or cul-de-sac community organises itself with a co-ordinated display.

Radish in a window box.

Radish in a window box.

At an individual level, the feel-good factor can come from a single plant bought on impulse and grown indoors.

It is a living thing and the ever-present challenge is to help it survive. Surely there’s no greater test than keeping a plant tip-top in the depths of a busy newspaper office, but at the Gazette base in Alnwick, Ken has risen to the occasion.

His pride and joy is a ficus elastica decora (rubber plant). On a recent spot-check visit, I found it to be in robust health.

Nor is the warm inner glow that comes from tending plants a seasonal thing confined to summer alone.

I get a sense of achievement when any seeds start to germinate, be it spring vegetables outdoors or winter lettuce under glass and can’t think of a single part of this garden that fails to have attention throughout the year.

The vegetable beds are certainly not dug over, mucked then abandoned for months on end, because winter and spring crops are continually being harvested.

Leaf beet (perpetual spinach) is the epitome of this. Two rows are sown at the end of March and we’re picking young leaves before April is through.

There follows a year-long and constant source of nutritious food, harvested on a cut-and-come-again basis.

By autumn, the leaves have become ragged, so we remove them almost to ground level to regenerate the plants. Only when the new sowings are big enough for the kitchen do we dig up and compost the old plants.